Scotlands History

Alexander Graham Bell

Born in Edinburgh in 1847, Bell attended the Royal High School and later the universities of Edinburgh and London. The invention of the telephone was a spin-off from Bell’s family, who were fascinated by speech-related subjects. His father, Alexander Melville Bell, had invented ‘visible speech’ - a system for teaching lip-reading to deaf mutes. As a child, Bell had tried to teach the family terrier dog to speak, and with his brother he had devised a talking machine to imitate speech.

In 1871 Bell emigrated to America, becoming Professor of Vocal Physiology in Boston in 1873. In his spare time Bell tried to invent a machine that could send sounds telegraphically - to allow deaf people to hear them. This was what led to the invention of the telephone, ‘an apparatus for conveying sounds by electricity’, which he patented in 1876.

In 1877 he formed the Bell Telephone Company, which later made him a millionaire.

Bell married Mabel Hubbard, one of his students from his deaf and dumb school who had been deaf from birth. The famous Helen Keller, who was deaf and blind, was another student.

  • Sketch of a man using an early telephone

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